Spin Together

Belated News, November Visit

Doña Narciza´s Natural Dyed Aguayo

The short visit to Independencia to check on the PAZA activities allowed for faces to be put to names and tales that hadn’t been communicated in video chats to be told. Arminda and Deisy, the 2 new Club de Artesanas (CdA) who joined last February were engaging and enthusiastic. They didn’t know how to weave the traditional Andean motifs last February and were selling straps to fill PAZA weaving orders by June. They earned additional income by helping out with Spinning Week measuring and knitting the Spinning Week 2nd place prizes which were vests. They willingly taught knitting machine workshops in Huancarani, which although paid was something the 2 Club members they had replaced didn’t want to do. Training local trainers has been an objective of the Club since it began in 2010. Although initially afraid that they’d shame their team, both did well during Spinning Week. During the visit, PAZA resources for kids were taken out of storage just in time for the summer vacation. There were up to 9 kids a day (including 3 boys) working on embroidery projects or drawing which pleased the moms.

Knitting Workshops, Huancarani

Doña Toribia Knitting, Doña Eulalia with Blusa

Doña Maxima shared her tale of participating in a fiber arts skill exam in September given by the national government. Her son carried PAZA´s short demo leaning frame loom (2 notched poles) to the sports arena. Max headed down the steep incline with an aguayo on her back that held her lunch, weaving and crochet supplies and a warp rolled between the 2 cross pieces which she would attach to the loom poles. Her large collection of handspun wool yarn in a wide range of hues and tones from local plant dyes and cochineal was used for the warp. Synthetic yarn was used for the weft and the crochet project.

She proudly related how the examiner kept returning during the timed weaving exam to ask about the natural dye process. Max has been teaching PAZA´s natural dye workshops since 2008, although at that time was learning alongside her students. She participated in weaving demonstrations in 2013 and 2017 at the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco´s (CTTC) Tinkuy International Weaving Conferences where she answered questions about her weaving techniques. However, at her first Tinkuy experience in 2010 she was so shy that she clammed up and almost slid under the dinner table when asked a question about her weavings.

During the weaving exam, other weavers tried to lure the examiner to their work. None were weaving with local natural dyes, but with synthetic yarn, ironically trying to call the examiner´s attention to “the techniques of their ancestors”. Max´s ability to WOW the examiner with such a knowledgeable professional presentation can be credited to her hard work and her self-confidence developed through the years. To have been highly praised by a representative of the national government was unexpected but well-deserved. To be recognized in front of her peers for the work in which they have harassed her for political reasons was empowering. It was a feel-good moment and merits being shared with all of you who have supported the PAZA activities through the years. There´s been no word from the government about the exam results, and Max was vague about its purpose.

Doña Maxima and Arminda Checking out Dorinda´s Spinning Week FB Threads

A rather disturbing tale concerned a weaving order inquiry from the local cultural center. The Huancarani weavers didn´t even debate declining the order for 150 full-size ch´uspas (shoulder bags) to be completed within a month at a price of $15 a bag. The weavings made of natural dyed handspun yarn (most spun during Spinning Week) are cut to make 3 ch´uspas. The shoulder straps are than woven and each bag is assembled with a rolled border. The final touch is 2 to 3 pompons on the bottom. Each ch’uspa is roughly 40 hours of labor. The weavers set the PAZA price annually and it is $80. In 2007, at PAZA’s first craft fair with the weavers, the ch’uspas were crudely assembled and priced at $6 – $8.

November Meeting in Huancarani Discussing Spin Together Spinning Week and Planning Knitting Machine Workshops

Thank goodness that Doña Narciza hitched into Independencia to show off her just completed aguayo of natural dyed wool. The trip was against her husband’s wishes, as the rains had finally begun, and they needed to plant the corn crop the next day. It was no surprise that the combination of her vast stash of natural dyed fiber from all her experimenting with color, her eye for combining color, and her high-level technical skills created a stunning piece of art. Her daughter is trying to figure out how to make a living selling hand-made fiber products in Cochabamba. It would be wonderful if she could find a Bolivian market for the traditional weavings. The fate of the aguayo was unclear but it was headed to an event the daughter was attending in La Paz.

PAZA teaches skills which enable mothers to earn income to care for their families.

Vilma´s 2 youngest of 6, note faja binding the baby so she can be safely carried in an aguayo. Maribel on the left suffered unexpected family difficulties last year.

There are many stories to be told about the November visit, weavings to sell, and 2022 fundraising to be done since PAZA did not receive a grant for the year. PAZA responsibilities fall on Dorinda whose priority has been caring for her parents to keep them in their home. Another trip to Bolivia begins next week, which will add to the tales to be told. More weavings will be arriving in the U.S. including ch’uspas and a new dimension for DYI projects that needs to be evaluated (51” x 7”). Sales of the weavings are tentatively scheduled for April. Inquiries can be made prior to that at dkdutcher@hotmail.com.

Thank you, Lyn, for your stalwart support. Thank you, Rob, for your support of indigenous weavers and your efforts on the front line of Covid. Thank you, Emily, for your continued support of Max and the women of Independencia. More tales to come. Dorinda Dutcher, February 2, 2022

Spinning Week 2021

Spinning Week in Huancarani, Doña Maxima Center

Spinning Week 2021 is over, the results are tabulated, and planning for 2022 has begun. A huge group hug and thank you to the Spin Together volunteers who organized the virtual spinning event. The drop spindle Phuskadoras Internacionales team was composed of the 15 highest ranking Bolivian spinners from last year´s local competition and 3 American spinners. This was the first time that the Bolivian spinners who´ve worked with PAZA since 2007 have communicated directly through social media with an international fiber community. Although Vilma, Doña Maxima´s eldest, was the only one who posted to the team’s Facebook group page, it was a group effort to compose the postings. Two of the American team members responded in Spanish. It was a beginning and should expand to more robust communication next year.

Angelica, the Youngest Spinner, Huancarani
Sisters, Doña Maxima and Doña Narciza, Huancarani

In 2019, a couple of years after Spinzilla ended, it seemed like a good idea to split the 30 odd Bolivian spinners into 2 local competitive teams. Participation in this year’s Spin Together competition was timely as it provided a solution to a problem that´s grown since the 2nd team was formed.

The original Spinzilla Warmis Phuskadoras team is made up of spinners from the community of Huancarani. A few, including their organizer, Doña Justina, have always ranked in the top 5. The 3-year-old team, headed by Doña Maxima, is a mixed team of Club de Artesanas members, spinners of the community of Sanipaya, and a few Huancarani spinners.  The new team won for the 3rd year in a row by spinning 54,888 yards to the Warmis Phuskadoras team total of 36,931 yards. That´s a problem…

Deisy (left) Joined Club de Artesanas This Year and Won Spinning Week (4,431 meters)

In Huancarani, there was grumbling the 1st year, harsh criticism last year, and Doña Maxima said something must be changed this year. She couldn´t face her relatives and friends on the losing Huancarani team to tell them that the Sanipaya spinners would be winning the coveted polleras (skirts), the 1st place prize again. It was decided that the 1st place polleras will be awarded on merit not team affiliation. This will also serve to identify the Bolivian spinners who will be registered for the 2022 Spin Together Phuskadoras Internacionales team.  

Doña Maxima wrapped up the busy week of rural travel and measuring Spinning Week results by traveling to Cochabamba to purchase the material for the polleras and yarn for the 2nd place vests. The Club de Artesanas members are starting work and will be earning income by sewing and knitting the prizes.

The Sanipaya Spinners are Formidable Competitors

The Spin Together Phuskadoras Internacionales team is an example of how a passion can connect people of incredibly different backgrounds. Quechua is the language of the Incas; it is a pre-literate culture. The older Bolivian spinners were born into the remnants of the Spanish Crown feudal system, with no opportunity to go to school. All grew up in an ancient farmer subsistence lifestyle following a rich textile heritage reaching back to time immemorial. The American spinners are fiber artists who pursued and enjoyed non-traditional careers, that have not long been available to women. The Spin Together competition opened a portal between these worlds enriching the lives of the team members and those who followed the Facebook communications. Thank you Spin Together organizers! The Phuskadoras Internacionales team total will be announced after the Spin Together final results are published.

Thank you on so many levels to all of you who supported this year´s Spinning Week. Thank you, Lyn and Margaret, for your ongoing support of the Bolivian spinner/weavers.

Doña Narciza with her Kids, Note She´s Holding Her Phuska
Doña Narciza´s Natural Dyed Aguayo (Half Competed)

The next posting will be 1st hand tales, gossip, and scoop. I´ll be back from Bolivia with weavings available for purchase after Thanksgiving. Dorinda Dutcher, October 21, 2021